The Big Ten is opening the door to a college football playoff, but is holding out for the SEC to make some concessions. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
The Big Ten held a teleconference Monday to discuss this weekend's meeting of the conference's chief executives, and sent their newest member, Nebraska's Harvey Perlman, out to be the pinata. The headlines and the Tweets made it sound like the Big Ten hadn't moved at all, or maybe even regressed back. Perlman even threw out a lulu that the status quo of current BCS is the Big Ten's preference.
Yep. He actually said that.
That shouldn't be a surprise. Perlman has a long history of defending the BCS, so it shouldn't be a shock to anybody that he said what he said. We've heard it before, and he's going to continue to say it. That's not going to change as long as Perlman keeps being sent out to discuss the college football postseason.
So why send Perlman out to rehash his old tired argument?It's posturing, pure and simple. Last week, it was the SEC insisting that they wanted the "Top Four Teams" in a college football playoff. They wanted nothing to do with the "Top Four Conference Champions"; in fact, Florida head coach Will Muschamp wanted to argue that it really should be the "Top Four SEC Teams". Meanwhile, the other conferences want to make sure that the door is open to all teams in the college football world.
Why is that? Last season provides us with all the examples we need. LSU was an easy choice to be the #1 team in the country, but after that, controversy ensued. Oklahoma State was the Big XII champion, but had suffered a shocking upset loss on the road to Iowa State just hours after the team learned that two Oklahoma State women's basketball coaches had died in a plane crash. Alabama's only loss on the season was a loss at home to LSU in an ugly game. Yet the sportswriters and computers, for whatever reason, chose Alabama over Oklahoma State. Even worse, the formula picked Stanford as the #4 team in the BCS over Pac-12 champion Oregon.
The BCS formula has been criticized and ridiculed by anybody and everybody who disagrees what comes out of it. Whether it was selecting Florida State in 2000, Nebraska in 2001, or Florida in 2006, it seems that controversy has ensued more often than not. So in this day when so many teams schedule down to avoid playing a game they could lose, college football is become more insulated. It's easy to say who the best team in each conference is, but how do we compare the strengths of each conference?
So take us back to the comments of Harvey Perlman and Jim Delaney, setting aside the talk about a Plus-One or keeping the current BCS intact for now. Perlman and Delaney both said that they won't stand in the way for a four team playoff. So what do they want? They want to toss out the existing BCS formula and use a selection committee to pick the four best teams. The Big XII is also on board with this approach. The Big Ten wants conference champions and strength of schedule to be given preference; that's something the Pac-12 seems to want as well. You can see the makings of a compromise emerging here.
So why bring up the possibility of just dropping the whole playoff plan and going back to the status quo? Politics. Some will try to paint the Big Ten as the obstructionists in this debate. That's a little close-minded. Remember it was also the Big Ten that proposed a four team playoff system using campus sites. The SEC fought back, and fought back hard. Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks campus sites are unfair:
"For some young kid from Mobile, Alabama, who has never seen snow, to have to go play a national championship game in Wisconsin — I don't know if that's the right thing."
His argument is that it's much more fair for Wisconsin to play Alabama in New Orleans or Atlanta than in Madison. Of course it is. It's a neutral site. A neutral site that's less than a eight hour drive for most SEC fans...versus eight hours of airplanes and airports for Big Ten fans. Definitely more fair.
No, the SEC knows that they have the advantage in the bowl system. And that's why they've pushed the way they have. So the Big Ten pulls that card back, and plays the cards they do have. If the SEC refuses to compromise, there's always the existing BCS.
And who better to sell the old BCS than the man who did it in front of Congress. Queue Harvey Perlman. The message is clear: the Big Ten is willing to accept a lot, but the SEC must give a little as well.